How this fire happened
An electrical fault in a motorhome caused a fire to start, which spread to adjacent vehicles.
In total six motorhomes and two caravans on a motor home and caravan retail premises were completely destroyed by fire and a further eight motorhomes were damaged by radiated heat and smoke.
Four fire appliances were required to extinguish the fire.
The total financial loss is estimated in excess of £1 million.
The fire started in the early morning when the premises were unoccupied and was captured on a security CCTV camera located on a pole in the centre of the site.
The camera footage showed that the headlights of a motor home had come on minutes before it ignited.
This motor home was an older second-hand vehicle and it had been parked in the same position for about three weeks prior to the fire.
Due to severe fire damage, it was not possible to identify the exact origin of the electrical fault, but it is though likely that mechanical damage either through age and deterioration, or possibly rodent attack, combined with dampness from recent heavy downpours may have been a factor.
The site which stores approximately 130 tightly parked motor homes and caravans was secure and alarmed.
On arrival the Firefighters were delayed as they had to cut through a metal gate to gain access to the vehicles.
Additional hazards in dealing with the incident included fuel in the vehicle’s tanks leading to a risk of running fuel fires and a significant number of gas bottles.
The site is also located in close proximity to a Petrol Service Station and main road.
The effect it had
The impact of a fire on a business should never be underestimated. What can be destroyed in minutes by flames can then take several months to recover from.
The loss was covered by the insurance but, this obviously has an effect on next years premiums, and the non claimable part is the management time that is needed to ensure that everything is taken care of, which runs into dozens of hours.
A few simple checks could make the difference.
In situations where the risk is in the open and the site to be covered is large, one type of suitable early warning solution would be to install a scanning Infra-Red Flame Detector.
The detector will scan a radius of 90 metres and can be linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre.
These systems are designed to detect a flickering flame and are suitable for large open areas; they are reported to be very reliable with a low occurrence of false alarms.
Liaison with the local Fire Station to identify a solution for future site access could also be considered as a useful measure.
The Sussex Resilience Forum works to make Sussex a safer place for the whole community.
Business Continuity and Property Protection
It is widely reported that 80% of businesses that suffer a serious fire close within 18 months, as despite being able to re build their physical assets, their customers are often long gone!
Don't let your business go up in smoke!
You may not be aware but:
Property protection and business continuity planning are not covered by current fire safety legislation and building regulations; which only require that buildings meet minimum standards for life safety including the need to ensure that:
Fire risks are identified and reduced
There is suitable early warning
Occupants can escape safely
The building will allow Fire & Rescue Services to carry out rescue work for a limited period.
The Sussex Resilience Forum works to make Sussex a safer place for the whole community under the remit of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and advice and information can be found on the Sussex Resilience Forum website.
Under the Civil Contingencies Act, it is a requirement for all local authorities to provide advice on business continuity and emergency planning and businesses outside of East Sussex should seek advice from their own local authorities.